Just last week, Bae Kim, the owner of Babi Nail’s salon, was arrested by the state Attorney General’s office for violating labor laws and failing to follow through with the court proceedings.
“This is a victory for all workers, not just us at Babi Nail’s,” said former employee Yan Zhang. “This is a very clear message to all the bosses that they cannot break the law and run away.”
Sarah Ahn, an organizer with the Flushing Workers Center, said in the case of this particular owner, Kim transferred his nail salons to family members and sold other properties in an attempt to avoid compliance, a practice that many workers in the community say is all too familiar.
“Even though for many years they ran these four very profitable nail salons and failed to pay minimum wage and become very wealthy, they were able to avoid paying what they have stolen,” Ahn said.
She added that the workers and the Flushing Workers Center have teamed up with local politicians to make permanent changes to protect employees in the city.
“Now, Babi workers are calling for a change in laws so that employers can’t do this, can’t get away from paying judgments when the courts find them in violation of labor laws,” Ahn said. “It’s time that these workers finally get the justice that they deserve.”
The state bill, the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft, is structured to protect workers who speak out against labor law violations.
“They will be able to put a lien on the employers assets and properties,” she explained. “There is also another legal operation called an attachment. It works in the same way that enables you to freeze their assets so they can’t do what the Babi Nail’s boss did.”
Restaurant worker Huang Laiguang joined Ahn and a number of the former workers from Babi Nail’s salon last week at the Flushing Workers Center to applaud the hard work in bringing justice to the far-reaching problem in the community.
“I’m so happy about this result,” Laiguang said after hearing of the arrest. “This exposes that employers have been treating workers unfair and not paying legal wages.”
Ying Zhu, also an organizer with the Flushing Workers Center and previously a nail salon worker herself, has been at the forefront of the battle to create legislative changes to avoid the problem in the future.
“The nail salon industry is very bad,” Zhu said. “It doesn’t matter your race, different background or if you work in a different industry, workers should fight for their rights.”